VATICAN CITY — Rather than being called by his papal name “Benedict XVI,” the retired pope revealed that, since his retirement, he has wanted to return to his original priestly title and be called simply “Father Benedict.”
Benedict made his comments in a private conversation with journalist Jorg Bremer, who published bits of them in a Dec. 7 article for the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
According to the journalist, Benedict explained that, when he initially stepped down, he wanted to be called “Father Benedict” rather than pope emeritus or Benedict XVI, but “I was too weak at that point to enforce it.”
At least part of the reason for wanting his new title to simply be “Father” is to put more space between him and the role of the pope, so that there is no confusion as to who the “true pope” is, Bremer reported.
Benedict encouraged the journalist to write about his desire, saying, “Yes, do that; that would help.”
In their conversation, Benedict also spoke of his current relationship with Pope Francis, saying, “We maintain good contact [with each other].”
“Francis has a strong presence, much stronger than I could ever have with my physical and mental weaknesses,” he observed. “To remain in my office would not have been honest.”
In his comments, the former pope also touched on a new volume of his collected works that was released in German with an updated version of a 1972 essay, which no longer suggests that the divorced and remarried can receive Communion, as it once did.
He referred to how some have suggested that by publishing the revisions now he was seeking to take an active role in debate surrounding the topic after this year’s Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family.
It is “utter nonsense” to claim that his revisions to the essay were made in order to seek a platform in the post-synod conversation, Benedict explained.
Rather than being outspoken, Benedict said, “I try to be as quiet about it as I can” about such matters.
He noted that he had originally made the revisions in August, two months before the synod began, and that there is “nothing new” in what was recently published.
He also clarified that he has “always taken the position” that it is “impossible” for those who are divorced and remarried to receive the Eucharist. “As prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, I’ve written even more drastically,” he noted.
Divorced-and-remarried Catholics, he said, need to “feel love of the Church” and should “not be burdened with more than they already have to deal with.”